habitants

When broken, rebuilt
are entirely new children-

the people we play
              the ones we remember from a story or memory
in their shiny, forming hearts

like ghosts beneath the fingernails
we scratch at when there is an itch
on the brow, of fathers       

tender        of mothers and their dreams
even when      splintered from unkindness/

it is the mantle of yesterday, of those
we have loved and not our own

dreams and hope. And see,
when broken and like a child
again, so spectacularly

a life kinder than once known-now

we could be   brave
flowers are on
                      the table because we remembered

to walk to the garden every weekend/coffee
brews on Saturday morning
                          little feet already rushing under the sun.

My heart,

does a war rage outside
              the bedroom window? Are the people

who wage it                 Kind Folk?

I want to ask for a reprieve     tell the ants
making their way up the picnic basket, I

will be back tomorrow, cross
my heart.

When I blow upon my own hand
dust in the dim light is like
starshine/and so,

I look to no other. The children
receive our debt/ and the
debt we have paid

like lit paths we must have left
forging through the longer
nights, even when we,
like children

again.

it’s a snowy warmth he offers

Not your hang-girl,
not in the sun, syrup
from plump figs/no,

the frozen place near
Saint Helens where I
breathed in the cold

burned and made the heart
drum/ with bracing rhythm
that holds a long winter.

There is always a certain
in a man’s face, the wrong
things my father said and

I was just pretty enough
he said, too. I know also

aligned to a certain danger,
the threat of beauty palpable,
my snow-blind, hardened ice;

the warmth of dreams
a river beneath, ended in
my mouth | flowers,

blue asters and jasmine like
new stars under the sun.

I prefer crush like heavy
to feel the world outweigh
things unneeded : the desire

of life without pain without
poems without the color
of indigo,

how someone might look this way:
shakes the pollen free>
I need the weight

the way known
the heart blooms in
the shade of black

irises, muddy feet running
toward thunder.

evolution of cold flowers

Cold-weather flower,
the crush of snow does not
stop the way petals push-

I like to believe me and him
were cold-weather sorts,
simply. The way moms say,

‘get up,’ say, ‘where-
are-my-keys,’ like mine
claps her finger cymbals

when she dances/
a certain pattern to the running
in her heart, like an anxious bird

beneath the snow
the sun seeks,

and the little bird untold.

***

When I’m a grown woman,
she says to me, “you
intimidated me, all those
things you would say;
I didn’t know what you meant”
and I hear, “I didn’t know

what you intended to do to me”
-because of a habit of hiding
from inconvenient truths/

I used to sit beneath the biggest
tree I could find reading about
better worlds than this

to forget the way it felt
her laughter of small,
feminine sounds

in an empty room.

I say things like
‘sorry’ like ‘I love you’ like
an allergy blooms

sometimes slow and then
suddenly unbearable/ the
inauthenticity is pale

and colorless. I sit after
school on the old sign
and the hot bricks feel good

to me, sketching all the things
I can see that are real like
dragonflies and the rubber

wheel of a car as I wait
a little bit longer to go home.

I say, I love you, but
I want to say I am something
beautiful you are missing.

***

A cup with no handle-
useful? Still holds so much
like a bright, blank page-
sometimes I use a
pen like a lever
to lift the cup up
to the faucet.

***

Six-years-old/ plays
shark: my best-est friend
Amber chases in the pool,
a lock of golden hair dripping
wet and pointed like a sharp
weapon, says, “Shark tooth!”
yelling and laughing and I
swim as fast as I can
swallowing water

in fits of giggles-
people say the word silly:
I want to define it, survival
and to call it instead, heroic.

***

I work at a Winn Dixie through college
down the street from the projects-
southern women tell me I speak
‘like a baby.’ I swallow razor blades

before each shift though it bleeds
because my voice is very small
and I seem very small, too.

They stop one day
maybe because they notice I am
relentless, but I learn

I am an angry misfit of sorts
hiding behind a small frame
and long hair I sometimes

wear in pigtails so they will
never know how serious I
am, the disastrous maelstrom

in my heart that would be
set free- Big cat and claws
and all their pain, too

I can see is just
too much.

***

The angry say,
they cannot open their
eyes, see you without
being afraid of their
own hollow space.

***
One time I stepped in the snow
up on Mount Saint Helens mid-winter
and was standing on a bench,
snow-blinded. The laughter
that bubbled same as

when she lost her temper.

That time dad took me to San
Francisco to visit my uncle
who in the front seat of our
car going down Lombard
asks, “does she speak?” with
his kind eyes looking
in the rearview, and I

look at the trees
with their boughs like grandma’s
lap as she braids my hair in
some memory.

***

Zipper-mouth girls and boys
tragic or beautiful depending
on whether they would dare
ask to be tragic

or the loveliest/ cold-weather
flowers with roots deep
in the snow.

***

my gratitude

A pressing cloud
time could open or lift

maybe a wind maybe a branch

in the path of a small bird,
her feet trembling,

to grasp just and dare hope
she will fly away and make useful,

a branch into a home.

Memory is my strength, the press
of air on a sea of golden leaves

and blaze of autumn a cane:
I will walk forever even when my feet

are broken birds like birds broken
beneath the lowest branches- to see

but not see they are gone, me
and others falling will keep falling

like a feather falls with no weight or rush but softly like wings rasp in the air.

Our hearts stay a cold resin, deep in the old oak, a wind nor a bird could lift

with song- but memory, a pressing cloud
barely touches and touches

every thing- and heralds every step.

erasure, the little prince

little prince

A seed blown from no-one knew where,
a new flower in the shelter of her green chamber

dressed herself slowly with four thorns:
“Let the tigers come with their claws,” 
she said, on the verge of naïve untruth.

Her inseparable grace
filled my heart with pity/

the little prince believed
he would never want to return,
“Goodbye,” he said to the flower

{who} made no answer but,
“I am a flower.”

The secret was revealed abruptly
far from his rose when
he arrived on our planet,

a sheep eats anything it finds in reach 
and the flowers believe
their thorns terrible weapons,

‘is the warfare between the sheep
and the flowers unimportant,’ he demanded?
all the little prince’s stars darkened
choked by his sobbing,

rarely a mountain changes position,
an ocean empties itself of waters,
but, the flower is in danger

of speedy disappearance.”

My flower is ephemeral,”
said the little prince to me
and went away thinking

of the sheep back home
he’d left tied to a small post.

Walking for a time upon a road
led to a garden all abloom with roses;
they all looked like his flower/

the universe obliged to pretend
a flower, unique in all the world
was a common rose.

He continued on,
climbing a high mountain
to see the whole planet

at one glance
sharpened like needles.

“Who are you?,” asked the little prince.
“I am all alone,” answered 
the pointed echo.

A fox found him some time later
sitting near an apple tree
who wanted only to be tamed:

the fox said, “Listen.
Be very patient and observe
the proper rites too often neglected,

sit in the grass and say nothing
for words are misunderstandings,
and sit a little closer every day . . .

“The little prince drew near the fox,
a fox like one thousand other foxes
so that they could become unique

in all the world to each other.

“One only understands the things
one tames,” said the fox.

And the little prince thought of the baobobs
specifically the catastrophe of them
being trees as big as castles

like the heart is seized
with the desire to awaken
and bores clear through with roots

being too small, like the planet
of the baobobs, splits in pieces.

And though he had found friendship
he still thought of a single rose
on a planet he no longer
knew a way back to.

Though the stars are beautiful
because of a flower
that cannot be seen

though a desert beautiful
that somewhere
it hides a well,

though, a sheep is in a box
in his drawings for her,

still the little prince yearned;
all-the-while true that all
stars in the sky were 

now abloom, thinking her
on any one of them…

to those who do not know,
confidence in the snake,
a little lonely in the desert,

can carry a person further
than a ship. The little prince
understood this very well

when thinking of his flower.

The story of the little prince ended
when he said to me, “I am going home,”

rushing headlong into an abyss.

“My star can be found above where
I came to the earth. Just like it is
with a flower that lives on a star

that all the stars are abloom for me,

my star will be somewhere there,
and you alone will have stars
that laugh,” he told me,

to be content to have been known.

There is nothing more fragile
on all the earth than 
the little prince with

eyes closed,

him extinguished by a wind,
a weathervane the wind
has forgotten.

Men raise five thousand roses
and do not find what they are looking for
in one single rose like him and I,

and do not wonder,
has the sheep eaten a flower.

Erasure of, The Little Prince by Antoine de-Saint Exupery

-for my most beloved friend, John Zajac. A sensitive, passionate, and incredibly intelligent being who as a gay teenager in the 90’s felt alone and lost. 

When I left for college, he would continue to battle years of drug abuse not having the resources he needed to cope with feelings of abandonment and being “other” in an unaccepting world. His pain eventually led him to an avoidable suicide. I wish he could have continued to hold a world of his own in his heart when the world outside was unkind, another laughing star to light up dark places. I will always believe in human rights, first. Human rights above religious belief, above money, above power. 

peculiar children

My cousin Doug and I
on the streets of Daytona,
Florida: he’s artistic,

hands me a deflated, red
balloon without a word and
takes out the camera- I

haunt dark streets
pinning his look to my
white, Keds with dirt/ later,

we scream in the attic
because we think there are ghosts

and he films it all, the way
I run out of the house and through
the surrounding woods like

something still chases
(he can keep up)

then we bang out some Hitchcockian
melody on the piano as our overture.

When it is too hot

sometimes he plays his guitar
in the room my mother grew up in
where all the family claims

an old man died terribly

who hid the liquor beneath the bed
and tripped down the spiral staircase
drunk, into the sunny kitchen.

And many mornings more, my grandmother
who still cooks three full meals a day
makes me cantaloupe with sugar on top

or cheesy grits, before I help her
by snapping the peas for dinner that night
or watch in anticipation if she is making

peach cobbler. My cousin was the first
of peculiar children I learned to see

why growing up in this family
when ways are strange and
strangers are friends

who could take us away.
We     like     black roses
though and sketched

constellations of our own in
the night before there
were words

so we could see, so we could speak.